17 November 2023

92-year-old Donald Morley will plead guilty to murder of his dementia-suffering wife, Jean

| Albert McKnight
Jean Morley

Jean Morley, 92, had been suffering from dementia the year before she was allegedly murdered by her husband. Photo: Supplied.

Lawyers for the elderly man accused of killing his dementia-suffering wife, to whom he had been married for about 70 years, have indicated he will plead guilty to her murder.

Donald Morley had been accused of suffocating Jean Morley at their home in Fisher in late July 2023 where they had lived for nearly half a century.

The 92-year-old, a thin, bespectacled man, appeared over audio-visual link in the ACT Magistrates Court on Friday (17 November) where he could be seen sitting at a table.

His lawyer, Legal Aid’s Nathan Deakes, said he would indicate a guilty plea to his client’s charge of murder, which he understood would be accepted by the prosecution.

He asked for his client to be sent to the Supreme Court, saying he envisaged he would be arraigned by a judge in the higher court over the next few weeks.

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Magistrate Jane Campbell waved the usual committal proceedings and committed the matter to the Supreme Court.

“Mr Morley, the matter’s going up to the Supreme Court and I’ve noted that you’ve indicated a plea of guilty at this stage,” she told him.

The matter will first appear in the higher court for directions on 30 November.

In the original court documents for the case, police said that due to Ms Morley’s dementia, she had difficulty remembering words or performing tasks, while her husband had skin cancers and a history of heart attacks.

Police officer outside the Morley's home

Police were called to the Morleys’ home by the nurse who discovered Jean’s body. Photo: ACT Policing.

When a nurse arrived at their home at about 2:30 pm on 31 July, it’s alleged Mr Morley appeared to be “sunken and quiet” as he let her inside.

She noticed two handwritten notes on the dining table, one of which allegedly referred to suicide and forgiveness.

After asking Mr Morley about the notes and why he hadn’t answered the phone when she called earlier, it’s alleged he replied he had gone out in the morning.

“[The nurse] told the defendant that she was there to help, and the defendant shook his head and replied, ‘I’ve done a terrible thing’,” the documents alleged.

It’s alleged Mr Morley told the nurse he had suffocated his wife with a pillow the night before, then made multiple attempts to end his own life.

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The nurse saw Ms Morley’s body in the bedroom. Before leaving the room, Mr Morley sat next to his wife on the bed and said, “That’s her there. My angel”.

The nurse hugged him while he cried. Police arrived just before 2:50 pm after being called by the nurse, arresting Mr Morley a few minutes later.

He has been in custody since his arrest. The court has previously heard of complexities involved in the case.

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